Donnie Nelson: 'We need to be able to count on some things'
DALLAS -- The Mavericks finally decided that Lamar Odom's mental state is not conducive to winning.
"We’re in our playoff time right here. We need to win games," Mavs president of basketball operations Donnie Nelson said Monday after the team concluded practice. "We got to be able to look down that bench and count on folks to be consistent. Unfortunately with him in his state right now he’s just not capable of doing that. I say that with his best interest in mind. He’s going through a very, very tough personal time. We certainly understand that. But we’re in the thick of it in the West and we’ve got to win games."
On Sunday the Mavs and Odom worked out an arrangement to sever ties, ESPN.com's Marc Stein was first to report Monday morning. They will not waive him, but he will no longer be with the team.
The situation came to a head Saturday night in the 94-89 loss at Memphis. Odom played just four minutes in the first quarter and never returned even though the Mavs were already playing shorthanded without Jason Kidd and big man Ian Mahinmi.
Some Mavs were not so eager to discuss the most recent development in the Odom saga. Dirk Nowitzki, who said he was done talking about Odom after the loss at Memphis, and Jason Kidd, who returned to practice on Monday and is expected to play Tuesday against Sacramento, slipped out the side door of the team's practice facility in the basement of the American Airlines Center to avoid the waiting media.
Jason Terry did take questions but didn't reveal much about the team's reaction to the decision.
"To me, it’s like Dwight Howard and Deron Williams. You’re talking about something that ain’t here, so I really don’t have much to say," Terry said. "He’s not here anymore. We won’t know how much we miss him until the season’s over, I guess."
Terry said Nelson informed the team Odom would not be returning prior to Monday's practice. Terry and center Brendan Haywood said that Odom had not become a distraction in the locker room even though there have been frustrations throughout the season with Odom's poor production and apparent lack of energy and enthusiasm.
"It’s a tough situation," Terry said. "It’s always tough to adjust to a new situation. And for whatever reason it didn’t work out for him. We wish him the best. He’s a great dude. Again, our focus is strictly on Sacramento. When we came in today, after Donnie made his decision, he said our focus is on Sacramento and getting into the playoffs. We got nine games left. I don’t know when the last time a team has won the championship and not made the playoffs."
Terry was informed that the last such fall from grace occurred during the last lockout-shortened season in 1999 after the Chicago Bulls ended the Michael Jordan era by dismantling the second edition of the three-peat champions.
"I don’t want that to repeat," Terry said. "As a leader of this team, I’m saying that our focus is primarily on Sacramento and beating them tomorrow."
Mavs coach Rick Carlisle offered no insight into the decision, leaving that duty to Nelson.
"I’m not going to comment on it any further," Carlisle said. "Donnie just went through the whole thing. It’s just time to turn the page."
Carlisle's job is to plug the 20.5 minutes a game Odom played mostly behind Nowitzki while averaging career lows with 6.2 points and 4.2 rebounds.
"We’ll adjust," Carlisle said. "We’ve got other guys. I really feel that we have other guys that are ready to step up. So that’s what we’ll do."
Carlisle said he'll consider giving 6-10 Brandan Wright, a natural power forward asked to play center in Dallas, more minutes at forward.
Nelson said the team remained as patient as it could before making this move.
"Your hope is that at some point the light goes on," Nelson said. "But look, we are in crunch time. Every game counts. We need to be able to focus and move forward, and that’s what we’re doing."
The Mavs will continue to pay Odom his $8.9 million salary this season and are still on the hook for $2.4 million he's owed next season. Nelson said the team was aware of Odom's fragile psyche when they sent a trade exception and a top-20 protected first-round pick to the Lakers in December and he said they don't feel cheated four months later.
The Mavs had a chance to end ties with Odom following his strange personal leave that bridged All-Star weekend. The team was also in Memphis in late March when Odom, his agent Jeff Schwartz, and Mavs owner Mark Cuban met at the W Hotel next to the AAC to discuss Odom's future. They agreed to bring him back.
"There was no cheating because the player that he was last year, there’s reasons for that not happening this year, some of which none of us will know," Nelson said. "There are personal issues that he’s going through. I think all of us understand the sensitivities when you lose someone close to you in your family and the things that he’s been through. It’s been a very, very difficult year for him. We’re understanding. We certainly tried to make it work, but at this point, we need to move on for both parties’ interests."
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